Some things are so very much more important than winning.
Gary Woodland turned out to be the calmest man amidst the Sunday chaos that is the TPC Scottsdale and the Phoenix Open.
He also turned out to be the best player on the course Sunday and he won this PGA Tour event the old fashioned way — he earned it.
It has been three long years since he’s won and that’s too long for a player with his physical talent. But sometimes there are other things in life that matter more and Woodland discovered that with a very, very heartbreaking year in 2017.
Wife Gabby was pregnant with twins and it would turn out to be a difficult circumstance for the couple. A little boy and girl were supposed to come into their world.
The little girl didn’t make it and the little boy, Jaxson, had to fight hard for his life. Born 10 weeks premature, he weighed just three pounds.
Woodland held his most important treasure there on the 18th hole, right after he took down Chez Reavie on the first playoff hole for victory. Woodland stood there with little Jaxson and told everyone “He’s a miracle.” He’s also seven months old now and Woodland looked to the heavens after his winning par putt, another angel on his mind.
Gary didn’t hesitate to admit how tough 2017 was. Tough to think about golf sometimes and that year was one of them.
His little boy has helped him move past that, so has his support system.
Teacher Butch Harmon has spent a lot of hours polishing Woodland, who many believe is one of the PGA Tour’s uncut diamonds. The polish began to show down the stretch Sunday as Woodland birdied the par five 15th, the loud and rowdy par three 16th within the alcohol stadium then another at 17 and suddenly he was 18-under par. He nearly birdied 18 but was done for the time being. His lead grew from one to two shots when Reavie made an untimely bogey at 16 after his tee shot went long left, leaving him little to no hope for a par.
Woodland didn’t waste any time getting over to the range. His dazzling,, nine-birdie 64 was the best of the day. Good move, stay loose, you never know. While he hit wedges, Reavie bounced back with birdie at the 17th then hit a perfect drive at 18. It looked like Woodland could breathe a bit easier after Reavie’s approach to 18 left him 21 feet away from a tying birdie.
Woodland heard the roars and knew it was playoff time.
It didn’t take long. Reavie finally made a mistake after leaving his second approach to 18 short of the green then stubbed the chip, leaving himself outside 12 feet and finally he’d miss.
Woodland’s eyes turned skyward after his tap-in par putt went down.
“I just wanted her to know that I still love her,” he explained. His mind on Jaxson’s sister. There should have been two babies in his arms.
He then thanked putting guru Pete Cowen for getting his short game in order. “He really got me to where I am with my short game,” Woodland added.
Then he thought about 2017 and remembered that 2018 will now be better.
“I’m excited with where I’m at,” he said, with a calm almost melancholy demeanor.
He had his miracle in his arms.
But you know he couldn’t help think of the little girl who wasn’t there.
Some things, after all, are more important than victory.